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When Good Things Fail

(Update at bottom of post) I’m never quite sure what to do when something I’ve raved about in previous columns fails on me. Do I trumpet its failure to the world immediately? Do I go through the normal customer service channels to get it fixed, or do I raise hell with their PR to ensure it gets sorted out by the best and the brightest techies they’ve got available? Do I keep quiet, assuming it’s a one-off? Here’s the latest mishap: My Olympus DS-20 digital recorder died. Just like that. No warning, no long walk in the rain, no circumferentially advantaged person sitting on it.Continue readingWhen Good Things Fail

Foleo, Foleo, Where Art Thou?

Caption competition: “Is this a dagger I see before me?” “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio” Now you see it, now you don’t Photo from BusinessWire It has the grim predictability of a company that doesn’t seem sure of what it’s doing, and what people want. Ever since Ed Colligan unveiled the Foleo — a Linux-based sub-sub-notebook — a few months back, folks have been saying it was a mistake. Now it’s dead. I liked the idea, but felt it was the wrong solution: the iPhone and the Nokia N800 seem to prove people now want something that isn’t just a workhorse, but anotherContinue readingFoleo, Foleo, Where Art Thou?

An End to the Anonymity of Trash?

Britain is quietly introducing RFID (Radio Frequency Identity) tags to rubbish bins (trash cans) in a bid to measure the individual waste of each household and charge them accordingly. Some Britons are up in arms about this, saying that households have not been informed and calling it an abuse of privacy. Is it? The UK’s Daily Mail reports that some bins, provided by local councils for households to dispose of their trash, contain coin-sized devices that monitor how much non-recyclable waste the owner throws out: With the bugging technology, the electronic chips are carefully hidden under the moulded front ’lip’ of wheelie bins used byContinue readingAn End to the Anonymity of Trash?

Portability Over Quality: The MP3 Scam

I happen to be a new fan of Alva Noto, whose minimalist bleeps and hisses may not be everyone’s cup of tea. (My wife thinks we have mice.) Anyway, I’m also testing headphones so I’m sitting outside by the communal pool taking in his second album with Ryuichi Sakamoto (my hero; I once interviewed him in such a grovelling fashion I couldn’t bring myself to watch the recording of it afterwards. I think my toughest question was “What do you think makes you so talented?”) with a pair of Logitech noise-cancellers (I’d have to take them off to tell you which make, and I’m notContinue readingPortability Over Quality: The MP3 Scam

The Hidden Channel on MP3s

Why don’t MP3 files contain ‘hidden’ channel like DVDs do? Or do they? It would be a great way to cater to the modern remix culture, the podcasting revolution, the audio commentary and soundseeing movement. I wrote a few months back about podentaries, my ridiculous term for what I later found was already a thriving, if somewhat limited movement. The idea is basically to offer an audio accompaniment to more or less anything, not just confined to washed-up ex-directors pontificating on their old movies (parodied imperfectly by Rob Brydon), but also to music (take it to a Beethoven concert, an alternative to the stodgy guidedContinue readingThe Hidden Channel on MP3s

Urine, Corrosion, And The Decay Of Bridges

You have to feel sorry for designers, particularly bridge designers. How can you factor in all the variables that will determine whether your bridge survives? Take for example, a bridge in Palembang, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Built between 1962 and 1965, the 1,177-meter long and 22-meter wide bridge was named after the then president, Sukarno. When he fell from grace it was renamed Ampera (short for Amanat Penderitaan Rakyat or the Mandate of People’s Pain, according to The Jakarta Post, In Memory Of The Suffering of the People, according to others. They were difficult times and bridge namers were not given to levity).Continue readingUrine, Corrosion, And The Decay Of Bridges

Bluetooth Jackets For The Hip – And The Hip-Replaced

Thanks to Martin Herfurt for this: A jacket that, via Bluetooth, doubles as an entertainment centre, complete with (1) hands-free set with microphone in the collar and voice recognition, (2) integrated headphone connection, (3) flexible keyboard embodied into the material and (4) docking station for an MP3 player with a Bluetooth headset: The HUB-Jacket comes with 128 Megabyte memory offers enough storage capacity for two hours of music. The MP3 files are loaded into the module from a PC via a USB cable. The fabric keyboard woven into the jacket’s left-hand sleeve “can be comfortably operated even when wearing gloves”. All the electronic connections “are sewn directly intoContinue readingBluetooth Jackets For The Hip – And The Hip-Replaced

How To Eliminate Offline Swaging And Avoid A P-Punch

I read a lot of press releases in a day, but usually I try to read them in the early morning, because they seem to make more sense then. Don’t ask me why. But rarely do I enjoy reading a press release; they’re boring, self-promoting (of course), hard to decipher and often not closely related to my field of work (technology column-ing). But I’ve just received one (subscription required) which I found a joy to read, and reaffirms my belief that my chosen profession (technology columnist) is the right one. I reprint it here in full, so you can enjoy it as much as I did:Continue readingHow To Eliminate Offline Swaging And Avoid A P-Punch

A Word To The Wise: Fat Start Menus

A little trick not all of you may have been aware of: The Windows Start menu — and each column within the Programs submenu — grows in width according to the names of the programs and documents in it. Any long-winded name will immediately increase the width of the whole column, and all the other columns if your Programs Menu stretches to more than one. Like this: To avoid these columns taking up too much space, it’s worth spending a bit of time renaming the programs, folders and whatever you have in these lists so they’re short and pithy. (To do this right click overContinue readingA Word To The Wise: Fat Start Menus

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